Wednesday, February 19, 2014

School Changes!

We have had a LOT of changes at the Home Builders Academy since Christmas.  They have been good changes!  The first change is we now have a tutor.  Her name is Elizabeth and she is AMAZING!  She comes every Tuesday and Thursday and she works with Sophie and Jackson for an hour each.  They ADORE her.  She has taken a HUGE load off my shoulders.  She has not only helped with their confidence, my work load, and their reading but she has also helped me to freshen up my teaching.  She tells me about resources I didn't know about.  She has such fantastic ideas.  She has consulted with me on what we are doing that is working and what we are doing that is not working.  Change number 1....FANTASTIC!

Another change is we have a Teacher Assistant!  Yes....I am blessed!  My sweet Mama has started coming on Monday and Wednesday from 8:30-11:30 and she helps me SOOOOO much.  She listens to kids read.  She does their Spelling lessons with them.  She reads to kids.  She reads History and quizzes them on it.  She goes over phonics lessons.  It makes our school day go so much quicker and the kids are much more cooperative with another adult in the house!  Change number 2.....BLESSING!!!!

Finally, I have changed how I teach Math.  Elizabeth suggested I buy a new math curriculum for Jackson and Sophie.  My current math program covers new material every few days and reviews older material each day.  This works well for 3 of the kids but it is too much changing gears for the other 2.  So I looked into ordering the new Math and realized it was going to cost a fortune and we are near the end of the I didn't want to do that just to order again in a few months.  So....with Elizabeth's encouragement I went through all the younger kids math books.  Listed all the concepts left to cover.  Grouped them together and have cut up their Math books and made my own new Math sheets and ditched the teaching format and hunted down my own hands on ways to teach the lessons and my kids LOVE it!  This week Sophie has learned songs about Perimeter and Area, Read Spaghetti and Meatballs for All and used manipulatives to act it out (deals with perimeter and area), measured shapes I taped on the floor and figured out the perimeter, used a geoboard to build shapes and figure out the perimeter, used wheat thins and Twizzlers to figure out the area (wheat thins) and perimeter (pull-apart Twizzlers).....and today we will find out the area of different candy bars.  Yes she has also done a few worksheets and math fact drills.  But that has not been the focus.  Math has been their new favorite part of the day.  No longer torture.  It takes more time to prep on my part....but I look forward to it too and get excited about it.  I even integrated Math and Spelling by having Sophie write her spelling words on one-inch grid paper and figure out the area/perimeter of each word!  FUN!  I was switching Math up for Jackson too and decided to let Audrey and Lydia do it with him and it has been a hit!  They are working on graphing and have learned about bar graphs, line graphs, and pictographs.  They have really enjoyed learning the characteristics of graphs, picking out a topic to graph, gathering data from people and are looking forward to making their own graphs from the information they gathered today!  Change Number 3.......Reminds me why I wanted to be a teacher!

The final thing I've done is lossen up a little.  Not too much!  I have done things like today: Give the kids a 2 hour school delay.  We were out with basketball until 10:30 last night.  I told Andrew not to set the alarm...and that they could sleep in.  I NEVER DO THAT!  The other day a friend invited us for tea and a playdate.  Spur of the moment.  I usually would say no....we always have more to do....but I got crazy and said yes!  The losening has helped the atmosphere.  Which has helped the attitudes.  Which has helped the Mama.  Change Number 4.......Helps me to BREATHE!

I love these changes!

These new changes have made school sooo much better for ME and for the kids! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Lydia's Ballerina Party!

Lydia Turned 8 Today
For her birthday this year she wanted to have a Ballerina Party.

So everything was pretty and pink!
My sweet friend Kellie agreed to come out of her 14 year retirement to teach my sweet girl and her friends a little ballet lesson at the start of the party!

Thank you sweet friend!
Randy and Andrew moved all the furniture out of our den and created our very own dance studio!
So thankful for their muscle!
All the girls looked so pretty!
They learned about posture!
They stretched!
They learned!
They ate!
They danced!
They had so much fun!
Happy Birthday Sweet Lydia!
I hope being 8 is wonderful!
You are!
I love you!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My Sister Stacy's Story

I am honored and humbled to welcome my sister Stacy to my blog.  Today's post is her story in her own words.  It is a sad story of hurt, heartache, and healing.  It is the story of a sin marked world and a merciful Rescuer.  Stacy is 18 months older then me.  We are polar opposites.  I've enjoyed sharing life with her and I'm proud that she wants to share her story here.  So this is my sister Stacy in her own words:
"Appearances can be deceiving.  To us humans, God’s ways do not always appear good or loving.  We all have our own examples, our own hardships, tragedies, questions for God.  Whether we believe in a God or not, every person who has lived any length of time on this earth has wondered how this/that could be good or right or beneficial.  I am no different.  The past year has brought to light so many insecurities and questions and challenges in practically every area of my life.  Some events were exclusive to 2013; others were only brought to the light for various reasons this year, but “happened” decades ago.  Very few people know “me,” the “real” me.  And I’d say that probably even fewer know “my whole story.” 

Part of my story began the summer of 1995, my junior year in college when I was sexually assaulted by four guys.  Why did God allow this?  What was the point?  I’ve commonly heard, “why do bad things happen to good people?”  Every question you can think of, I can assure you, I have asked.  Why do I bring this up nearly 19 years later?  In part, because I never dealt with it until now and this is part of the healing process. 

Let’s fast forward to 2013.  In January, both my mom’s parents died within days of each other.  I was unable to attend my Papa’s funeral due to a commitment to go to India on a mission trip.  In February, I had knee surgery number four, which meant no crossfit for a while.  My aunt died in the spring after a long battle from cancer.  In May, Clayton King & his wife preached a sermon at the Summit.  It was on rape.  It hit me hard, to the core.  Just a few days later, a good friend said our friendship needed a break.  In June, I had shoulder surgery, continuing to keep me out of the gym for basically the remainder of the year.  Then you can throw in the mix my mom and dad both had surgeries during 2013, I sold a house, moved in with a friend while my new one was being built, I started going to a counselor, and too many other things to list.…  I guess you can call it an “eventful” year.  I call it one of the, if not THE, toughest years of my life, yet best at the same time.

Everything I had come to rely on had been taken away from me.  No working out.  No turning to friends for help or feelings of worth.  I began to slowly learn Who I needed to turn to.  And this didn’t happen overnight.  It first began out of pure necessity, for my own sanity.  As I began to immerse myself in bible study, counseling, small group, and now in a mentoring relationship, God slowly began healing my very broken heart and mind.  God is good.  He is worth it.  He is not religion.  He is relationship.  He is in the business of restoration: to Him and to others. 

I really wouldn’t trade my ‘past’ for anything…now…looking where I’ve come from to where I am now.  No, everything is not perfect.  No, all my questions haven’t been answered.  No, my friendship hasn’t been restored.  But God is working.  He is changing me.  He is growing me and restoring me.  I am learning how to talk about my past and present.  I’m learning that I don’t have to be perfect.  I’m learning to lean and trust completely on God, not people.  I’m learning I am a work in progress and that God cares for me and forgives me.  Through all of this, He has drawn me into closer relationship with Him.  I had spent decades avoiding things, avoiding Him.  I have learned that counseling is a very good thing, godly Christian counsel.  I have learned that others need to hear my story.  Others may be able to relate.  Maybe they can be “freed” from years of bondage.  God can restore anything and everything.  It doesn’t mean we will understand everything, but we can trust Him to walk with us through it.

Had 2013 not happened as it did, I very well may have continued on appearing to have things together and under control and hidden.  That is no way to live.  It is hard being open about traumatic personal events.  It’s hard admitting I am a sinful person with struggles that has caused a good friend I care about to not trust me.  Life is hard.  Things are still tough, but I know that God is healing me as I work through & deal with everything.  It’s been a tough, bumpy road…sometimes circling back to the same old habits or coping mechanisms…but all in all, I am being drawn closer to God.  He is Lord of my life.  He is my one true desire.  Nothing and no one is more important.  So I thank God for allowing everything He has in my life.  He is perfect, and loving, and my God.  I cannot imagine going through all of life’s hardships and joys without Him.  I am so thankful He didn’t stop pursuing me, that He continues to draw me closer to Himself.  He is so patient and kind.  He will continue to be with me as I continue to walk through life and all the challenges and joys it brings."
I love you Stacy and I am so proud of you!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Life Changing

I have a busy weekend filled with bike races to cheer, ballerina balls to attend, dinner parties to host, lives to celebrate.  The twins turn 8 on Monday!  8 years old?!?  How on earth did that happen?  So in the excitement of the festivities and the celebrations...I don't want to miss my chance to share what God has done. I can't believe it has been 13 years.  I was 25 years old.  Barely more then a child myself.  I had an almost 3 year old little boy, Andrew, and was expecting our second son.  We were so excited.  His room was painted a powder blue.  His named was picked out: Matthew Douglas Stewart.  The baby shower was over.  The thank you notes written.  The gifts put away.  We just needed to pack our bags for the hospital.  It was almost time.

Then everything went wrong.  He was a little small at our checkup.  Strict bed rest.  Not measuring big enough.  Laying. Waiting.  Searching the Internet.  He was going to be fine.  This was 2001.  Babies don't die.  The stats of him surviving if he were born then were 90 percent.  This was a bump in the road.  Healthy, white, American babies of young, law abiding, Christian women receiving quality health care do not die in 2001.

Until they do.

The babies not moving. Panic. Doctors. Heartbeat. Hospital. Ultrasound. Dead.

WHAT???  NO!!!  WHY?!!!? 

Thus began the journey of healing.  The searing loss of a life not quite real enough for other people to understand.  But he was real.  I felt him move for 8 months.  I held him in my arms.  He was real.  I remember everything about that day.  He had hair, I touched it.  It was brown.  He had eyes.  He had a sweet face that looked just like all my other babies.  He was tiny.  He had all 10 perfect little fingers and fingerprints.  They are all over my life.  I have a card with his footprints on it too.  He was real.  He was a baby.  He was not a lump of tissue.  He was my son.  A life.  The loss of him radically changed me.

I dealt with realities a 25 year old shouldn't have to think about.  I was absolutely shocked babies could just die inside you right before they were born.  How was he going to get out?  Labor.  Would it hurt?  Yes.  There was no noise when he was born.  No rushing.  Why weren't they trying to save him?  It was too late.  He was already dead.  Then came the wailing.  Animal like noises from the girl....the mother?  Noises seared with pain and questions to painful to ask.  Are you still a mother if your baby dies?  I wondered that for a long time. are. 

Time was marked that day.  Before Matthew and After Matthew.  Life would never be the same.

I built a wall around my heart.  Protection was key.  I clung to Andrew and Randy for dear life.  Death grip.  I became super vigilant.  I was going to do everything right.  I was going to be the best mom.  I shut out everyone else.  All that was worth investing in were my small little family.  I had to seize every moment, because you never knew when was the last.  I lived in fear and bondage.  I was going to learn everything I could about why we lost Matthew so it wouldn't happen again and so God wouldn't have to take anymore of my children I was going to get this lesson down.  Most importantly: I was going to have another baby come hell or high water. 

So began my journey of healing.  I did learn so much.  I learned about God's character; that he is good regardless of my circumstances.  That he cares about the details of life.  Who else would give you twins on the fifth anniversary of your babies death.  The twins were 5 weeks early according to our plans but right on time according to Gods.  I learned that he really is good.  I learned that according to doctors this was a freak accident; a knot in the umbilical cord had cut off vital nutrients and as he grew bigger the knot tightened and that something like that would never happened again.  I learned that doctors are not always right.  Because guess did happen again.  Sophie was born with a knot in her umbilical cord and it was tied around her neck twice.  I learned that I'm not in control, the doctors aren't in control.  God is in control and for whatever reason he had planned for Matthew to die and for Sophie to live and that regardless of the circumstances: knot or  no knot Gods plans will not be thwarted.  As I learned about God's control I have s-l-o-w-l-y began to loosen the grip of mine.  It is a process.  I am still learning.  No matter how hard I try or how good I am or how much I love them.....I'm not in control.  Babies die.  Lives end.  It hurts.  It's horrible.  Yet God really is faithful.  He really does bind up the broken hearted.  He does heal fractured lives.  It takes time.  It hurts.  But he is good.

Then life got busy.  I was covered in babies and I had marked this off as lesson learned.  Painful still at times no longer dwelling on it.  I thought I was done.  Then Dr. Davis said something in church one Sunday.  I had an epiphany.  Not only was God good.  Not only did he allow it.  He actually thought about it.  Weighed it.  Measured it out and decided to allow it because it was for my good.  I had accepted it was for his glory....but for my good?  He weighed the pain of losing Matthew with the affect it would have on my life and named it good.  That is a loving God.  The forethought.  The consideration.  The measuring....weighing.....not a quick yes or no. The time and the making of that decision.  It was not flippant.  The thought.....the answer.  God is always right and losing Matthew, although without a doubt the most painful loss of my life, has been for my good. 

What is amazing is I am still learning from this.  I'm learning that it doesn't matter how "good" I am or how perfectly I try to mother or how hard I work.  It doesn't matter if I follow all the rules and do everything "right".   I don't control the outcome.  I am not running the show.  Not to mention I can't be good enough.  I fail every. single. day.....multiple times!  God's decisions are not based on my behavior and performance: THANK YOU LORD!  They are based on his glory and my good.  Whew!  Pressure is off.  How I love him.  How awesome is he?

I still miss Matthew.  I still feel we have a gap in our family that only a 13 year old boy could fill.  I still wonder what it would be like to be Mom To 6.  I still think he has a beautiful name.  Yet I know it really was for my good.  Without the gap in life would I know the need for a Comforter?  Without his life and loss would I know the value of every life?  We live in a broken, fallen, messed up world and the empty reminds me who fills.  Not babies.  Not food.  Not stuff.  Not busy.  Just Jesus.

I'm so thankful for Matthew's life.  I'm thankful for God caring enough to weigh it out before he allowed Matthew to die.  I'm thankful I got to carry him every single moment of his life.  What a privilege that was.  I'm thankful this is not all there is.  I'm thankful God lavished his goodness on us as only he could: Jackson and Lydia what wonderful gifts from above.  So February 10 is a special day for us as we celebrate the lives of Jackson, Lydia, and Matthew!

I wonder sometimes if I will ever be completely over the loss.  Probably not this side of heaven.  I know the wall around my heart is coming down.  I know I'm beginning to let others in.  I know you can be wounded and keep walking.  I know in heaven we will finally be whole.